Putting my blog in the deep freeze

I have decided that it is time to put idonotdespair.com into the deep freeze. Hopefully something I can return to in the future, because the blog has been an important personal project that has given me eight years of reflection and a personal space to share my ad hoc thoughts on cycling, travel, life in Belgium, friendship, food and just about anything else that caught my eye.

But my general trend has been to post less and less, especially in 2019 where I was starting a new job and a new international association. And now of course there is confinement. I may have ridden many kilometres where I live, but I haven’t actually been more than 25km from home since the beginning of February. There is no longer that moment when I get on a train or plane after some stimulating experience or exciting cycle tour and think “I need to blog about this”. Instead I step away from the electronics at the end of the day and say “I need to get out of here” to give my mind a rest from the intensity.

What energy I have for writing and communication has gone into the daily life of Cycling Industries Europe, and that has been intense. In the first six months of confinement I counted about 300 meetings, webinars, presentations and speeches conducted from my “nerve centre” in our converted garage, and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

The blog itself needs a full updating, not to mention going back and checking all those odd links and connections that need to be maintained, but I don’t have the capacity to do that now. I have decided that what I am doing now is “putting the blog in the freezer” because I can imagine a retirement project or some time similar when I can go back to it and give it the attention it deserves.

I do it reluctantly, but I do it with thanks.

The phrase “I do not despair” is more than a repetition of a clever line from H. G. Wells. It has always been a personal manifesto for how I feel about many things in life, but especially cycling. I wanted to share uplifting moments, amazing stories and wonderful people that I have been honoured and proud to have met because I was lucky enough to land a career in cycling over 20 years ago.

When I left CTC to join the staff of the European Cyclists’ Federation in 2012 I needed refreshing after 14 years in the same role. I also found the final couple of years more challenging as we experienced new forms of social media that could at times get quite personal. Today we know it better and the coping mechanisms are more established, but the first exposure was a shock and I struggled with it at lot. Cyclists are an argumentative lot, I find I can always raise a knowing smile from anyone who knows cycling associations with the adage “Two cyclists means at least three opinions, and four associations to argue about the three opinions.”

Back then two wise friends on the CTC Board separately gave me almost the same advice. “Don’t take it personally” they said “People who know you understand your values and your passion for cycling. Hang on to what you believe and find ways to let it come out.”

The step across the channel to Belgium gave me the clean break I needed, and idonotdespair.com was part of that change, kick-started because my wonderful son just presented me with the part-built site as a fait-accompli for Christmas 2011 and effectively told me to stop talking about the idea and get on with it.

So thank you. Thanks to my readers, followers, commenters and sharers, especially anyone who was there in 2012 when I was clumsily finding my way into this space. Your support and feedback have been amazing and the blog became a valuable outlet and a mental release. Thanks to all my family, who somewhat unkindly tell me that they read the blog to find out where I am, but are actually always really nice about it, even if I write about them.

And above all else thank you to anyone who has been in a story. “When I see a friend, colleague, companion, family member, group, club or just a person on a street on a bicycle I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

You made this possible.

Please stay in touch via www.cyclingindustries.com and on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

I would still like to inspired by what you do!

Podcasting with Freifahrt – a personal look at lobbying for cycling


We all have a bit more time to try different ways of communicating at the moment, so this week I was really pleased to join Freifahrt podcast host Sebastian Hofer for a chat about what is happening in cycling lobbying at the moment.

The longer form of the podcast allows for a more reflective tone than some of the speeches and webinars I normally make, so it was really nice to be able to talk more informally with Sebastian around some of my wider thoughts on the subject and to answer his questions about my cycling roots. My Mum and Dad should be pleased, they even get a mention!

Readers of my blog may be familiar with my unofficial ramblings, but here’s an opportunity to share it in “chat show” style. Thanks very much to Sebastian for the invitation.

Note – most of the Freifaht (Free travel) podcasts are in German and Sebastian’s intro is in German – but you have got the right link, my bit is in English!

The mountain bike recovery starts at home – sharing a message from IMBA Europe #trailsclosetohome


In many countries cycling is showing signs of going from bust to boom in several short weeks as populations seemingly burst out of confinement and head for the streets.

That’s very easy to see in the urban environment because the numbers are easy to spot and many cities are responding with new cycling infrastructure captured from streets made quiet by lockdowns.

However in the countryside and especially the mountain bike sector that’s much harder to see and to imagine. Some people may be riding for health and to maintain social distancing, but the mountain bike sector has always had a much stronger affiliation with certain landscapes or trail centres than other forms of cycling. so the MTB economy depends a lot more on people travelling to hot spots, and that isn’t going to happen quite so soon as urban reopening.

That’s where the #trailsclosetohome movement comes in. There is a growing understanding in the MTB movement that riding cannot be all about travelling to ride. It’s not terribly sustainable for one thing, but perhaps more importantly its a big deterrent for people without cars, or cars with great big bike racks, such as young people and people from poorer sections of society.

So much better if there is an alternative on the doorstep. Maybe not designed like a trail centre, maybe not as adventurous as the mountains, but right there when someone thinks “that looks fun, where can I go round here?” That’s how I started mountain biking nearly 30 years ago – as an extension to cycle touring that allowed me to ride to places nearby that I couldn’t ride by road bike, and today that hasn’t changed.

And now we do need #trailsclosetohome every day, not just for the new entrants but even for ourselves. If we are to build a mountain biking recovery we need people to do what the urban riders have done – keep up the habit and introduce new people while movements are restricted, then we have a much bigger potential rider base than before the lockdown.

That’s why the board members of IMBA Europe (of which I am one) decided to to put together a little video of our own thoughts about opening up riding where we live. All credit to Thomas, Edoardo and Ray, they are the sort of riders who actually go out and maintain trails where they live as a way of sharing. My contribution is rather to praise the route makers and guides who have already created and published the routes I ride because their contribution is what enables people like me to actually find the local places to ride.

But I must admit I can think of a few of the tracks round here where there are a few branches that could do with a trim, so I am also inspired to do more!

Enjoy your riding.

Cycling close to home – voyages of discovery and rediscovery


This gallery contains 3 photos.

There is no doubt that some of my friends and family who might be considered “serious cyclists” are getting pretty frustrated by their local rules which impose cycling close to home. The loss of a right to roam is taking … Continue reading

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike on New Year’s Day”


This gallery contains 5 photos.

Many people must have said it, but due to his celebrity JFK is attributed with the cycling quote “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike”. After a few weeks off the bike due to illness the symbolism … Continue reading

2010-2019 – some ride!


This gallery contains 9 photos.

Lots of other people are doing it, so I have been tempted by the Christmas holidays to to try and find at least one photo per year from the last decade that made me smile, or brought back a memory. … Continue reading

What is the point of a cycle touring route if no one knows it is there?


This gallery contains 13 photos.

Is the cycling equivalent of the Buddhist philosophical conundrum “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This is the question I have been asking myself for a while, a mental discussion triggered by the relatively recent discovery that I … Continue reading